Boat-washing sites planned to combat zebra mussels

Written by
Times staff report

Boaters out on Minnesota lakes this weekend could encounter new boat-washing stations and inspectors designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species.

The state Department of Natural Resources purchased the portable decontamination units with funding provided by the Legislature to combat invasive species. The units are capable of spraying 160-degree water at high pressure to remove zebra mussels from boat hulls, livewells and other areas that can harbor invasive species.

The DNR plans to have the units along with trained staff at public accesses on high-traffic lakes that are infested with zebra mussels, such as Mille Lacs, Minnetonka and Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County. Only boats that don’t pass an inspection will need to be decontaminated with the new equipment.

The DNR plans to increase the number of decontamination units from three to a fleet of 20 or more by next summer.

The agency encourages boaters to follow a few steps before leaving an access to ease the process:

» Leave a little extra time for the inspection.

» Remove visible aquatic plants and zebra mussels from boats and trailers.

» Drain water from your boat, livewell, bilge and impellor by removing drain plugs and opening water-draining devices. Also drain portable bait containers.

Gut wrencher: Researchers seek magic bullet to control mussels


Scientists have identified a new weapon to ward off two troublesome Great Lakes invaders: A bacterium strain that destroys their guts.

It may prove to be an environmentally friendly and effective method of controlling quagga and zebra mussels. Introduced to the lakes in the 1980s, the mussels eat up things like phytoplankton – food that native fish and other life depend upon.

They also clog things like the water intake pipes of power plants. Nowadays they are removed by hand or with the treatment of chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.

A strain of the bacterium, P. flourescens, destroys the bivalves’ digestive systems.

Daniel Molloy, a researcher at the New York State Museum, once helped develop an environmental safe method, using a bacterium, to kill black flies and mosquitoes. He had a hunch that a strain might be found to kill invasive mussels, says Molloy’s colleague Denise Mayer.

And they found it hiding in plain sight.

“[The bacterium] is ubiquitous, you know, common found all over the world. It’s everywhere, it’s on your fingers,” said Mayer, a lead research scientist at the museum which hosts scientists in a variety of areas.

Their research was backed, among others, by the Empire State Electric Energy Research Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

“Our intent was really to provide a tool to the … power industry and such, to clean their pipes…to reduce the use of some of the chlorinated compounds,” Mayer said.

The method isn’t designed for open water use so it doesn’t solve the problem of the mussels’ impact on the ecosystem.

Chemicals like chlorine can harm more than just the mussels, Mayer says.

And power industries are interested in getting rid of current methods, she says.

“Some of the biggest supporters, the Department of Energy, you know, power, they want a different method to use,” Mayer said. “So it’s not like they’re out there saying, we don’t care we’ll apply this to the environment. They really … would like to have an alternative.”

Typically the bacterium is associated with plant roots and helps the plant ward off fungi and disease.

But it also contains a chemical that is exclusively harmful to the two mussels and destroys their digestive systems. Other critters tested, like fish and other mussels, are unaffected by it.

The bacterium is a dish best served dead. Live cells could make fish sick, Mayer said.

“The cells are actually dead, so it’s acting like a pill .… it’s giving the mussels something to grab onto.” Mayer said.

The researchers screened more than 700 bacterial strains in search of the one that would do the trick.

“What they were able to do was pretty amazing. It’s more than just a needle in haystack,” said Sarahann Rackl, an Invasive Mussel Project Manager at Marrone Bio Innovations.

The museum then looked for a partner to commercialize the bacterium into a product.

And Marrone Bio Innovations answered the call. The California company focuses on environmentally friendly solutions to pest management. The company and the museum shared a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to aid in the bacterium’s development and commercialization. This year the company received another $600,000 from the foundation.

It is expected to be available in March under the name Zequanox.

“We feel that this is another product in the toolbox for people to use,” Rackl said.

“There’s a lot of value and potential value in this product because it’s environmentally selective and benign.”

And the product won’t expose people to harmful chemicals, she says.

And time is money. Chlorine treatments, if done properly can take 7 to 10 days or longer, she says. Zequanox takes six hours.

DTE Energy spends between $100,000 and $500,000 a year controlling mussels in its six Michigan power plants, said Gary Longton, a DTE senior environmental engineering technician. The mussels clog pipes that draw in water to cool equipment.

Right now DTE employs divers to clean pumphouses with the same industrial commercial-grade scrubbers designed to scrape barnacles off of boat hulls. Or the company treats them with chlorine or sodium hypochlorite.

“Detroit Edison knows their business and they have chosen primarily mechanical because it’s the cheapest form, they’re no dumbbells,” said Don Schloesser a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center.

Longton says that the company is always open to new and effective methods to rid itself of the nuisances. He says that salesmen test strips different coatings in the pump houses. Once it was cayenne pepper.

“We’re always open for the magic bullet,” he said.

“If anyone came up with the magic bullet they could be a very rich and famous person,” he said, “and no one has come up with a magic bullet yet.”

Green Lake group in Spicer, Minn., looks to be at forefront in stopping zebra mussels

Taking on zebra mussels … Some reason for optimism

By: Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune

SPICER — Like bracing for an uninvited guest to ring the doorbell, zebra mussels seem closer by the day.

They’ve established themselves in the Lake Le Homme Dieu chain of lakes in Douglas County, less than an hour’s drive away.

They’re proliferating rapidly in Lake Minnetonka, which has now been dubbed a “super spreader’’ due to the threat that the many boaters using the lake could spread the invasive aquatic species.

Yet, for the first time, there’s also a sense of optimism and there’s a greater resolve then ever, according to Terry Frazee with the Green Lakes Property Owners Association.

The Green Lake association is partnering with Minnesota Waters, which represents lakes associations across the state, and the lakes associations in Douglas County and Lake Minnetonka to research a promising tool in the battle to stop the mussels.

It’s a commercial product known as Zeaquanox. It offers the promise of helping control the invasive species.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel we have not had,’’ said Frazee.

Developed 20 years ago by Dr. Daniel Molloy, a scientist with the New York State Museum, Zeaquanox is a strain of bacteria called Pseudomonas fluorescens. The bacteria are found naturally just about everywhere, from the ground we walk on to the milk we drink.

The bacteria are selectively toxic to zebra and quagga mussels when ingested by the invasive species.

In the case of Zeaquanox, the bacteria are killed. The dead bacteria cells retain the toxin that kills the zebra mussels. It causes the cells in the mussels’ digestive systems to hemorrhage.

The product is not harmful to native mussels, waterfowl or fish, and poses no risk to people, according to Frazee and Lois Sinn Lindquist, executive director of Minnesota Waters.

The three partners intend to be at the forefront in researching whether the product can effectively be used to control zebra mussels in Minnesota lakes.

Zeaquanox is already being used by power companies in place of chlorine to keep water intake pipes clear of the invasive species. Its toxicity to zebra mussels is 100 percent when present in high concentrations in the intake pipes and other closed systems.

But can it be effectively used in lakes, where it will be diluted and where it will be far more difficult to apply the product where it is most needed? And, can the product be made available at a reasonable cost for large-scale use?

These are among the questions the partners hope to be among the first to answer.

Having a possible tool to control zebra mussels is not the only reason for the optimism that’s starting to show itself, according to the partners.

Frazee and Lindquist noted that recent state legislation requiring boaters to drain their watercraft and new funding for research to control invasive aquatic species are all positive signs.

Lindquist said she was also encouraged by a recent visit with Tom Landwehr, new director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He made clear the department’s commitment to stopping the invasive species, she said.

Containment and keeping the zebra mussels out of local waters remains the number one priority, said Frazee. “Don’t move a mussel’’ and other campaigns aimed at heightening public awareness are the first line of defense.

Or as Lindquist said it: “Spread the message, not the mussel.’’

State Turns To Local Volunteers To Help Protect Lakes From Invasive Species

Program Helps Fill Void In Staffing At DEEP

The Hartford Courant

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has launched a new initiative that relies on local volunteers to help combat the spread of invasive plants and animal species in Connecticut’s lakes.

The Invasive Investigators program trains volunteers to examine boats arriving at lakes for signs of invasive species. The volunteers also educate boaters in their communities about how to properly clean their vessels so they don’t spread invasive species to other lakes.

The volunteers help fill a large void in DEEP staffing. The department employs about 20 seasonal boating assistants who are spread among 120 state boat launches. But hundreds of town-owned and private boat launches are outside the department’s jurisdiction.

In helping prevent the spread of invasive species, the volunteers perform many of the same duties that paid staff members do but potentially have a much wider reach. They are free to offer their services at town-owned and private launches.

The DEEP is hoping the effort will mitigate the damage that invasive species cause to Connecticut’s lakes. Although the program is meant to curb the spread of all invasive species, this year the DEEP placed special emphasis on the dangers posed by the zebra mussel, a tiny mollusk already found in four Connecticut lakes.

Zebra mussels cling to boat bottoms, the pipes of water treatment plants, hydroelectric assemblies and marina pilings. They destroy marine life by removing sources of food used by some fish and other organisms.

The zebra mussel, native to Eastern Europe, was first found in Connecticut in 1998 in Salisbury’s Twin Lakes, according to Gwendolyn Flynn of the DEEP.

By November 2010, two lakes in western Connecticut, Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar, had become infested with the mollusks — just one of 19 invasive marine plants and animal species found in Connecticut.

Members of the Candlewood Lake community are trying to stop zebra mussels from spreading to their lake from nearby Zoar and Lillinonah. Candlewood already has other invasive species, including Eurasian milfoil, a prickly aquatic plant that repels swimmers.

“We don’t have zebra mussels yet, but they’re knocking at our door,” said Larry Marsicano, president of the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority.

Zebra mussels can attach themselves to most living and non-living surfaces, including boats. Unwitting boaters traveling from lake to lake risk carrying the stowaways to new waters if they don’t properly clean their boats.

Since April, the Invasive Investigators program has trained more than 70 volunteers during five sessions held in sites throughout the state.

The volunteers, generally boaters themselves, learn how to identify common invasive plants and animals and how to teach the proper boat-cleaning procedure — “clean, drain and dry” — to those who use their lakes.

The volunteers work shifts at boat launches in their communities to inspect arriving boats for invasive species, with the boat owners’ permission.

Although volunteers can inspect boats, they cannot prevent them — even those harboring invasive species — from entering the water. They can, however, report such boaters to the DEEP, which will then refer the matter to the department’s area environmental conservation officers for possible investigation, Flynn said.

In Connecticut, boaters are legally obligated to clean all plant matter — invasive or otherwise — off their boats after they leave any body of water. Boaters found trying to enter a lake with any plant matter on their boats risk a $95 state fine. State law doesn’t similarly bar zebra mussels or other animal species, but such regulations are being considered, Flynn said.

Flynn said the department’s hope is that any lake visitor made aware that his boat is carrying an invasive species will take the time to voluntarily remove it — even if that means rescheduling boating plans.

In late May, for example, a volunteer at Candlewood Lake found zebra mussels on a boat that, according to its owner, had been purchased near the Hudson River. The boat’s owner left the lake, cleaned the boat and passed a follow-up inspection when he returned, Flynn said.

The volunteers are highly motivated because they work in their area communities. They have an intimate knowledge of their own lakes and the desire to protect them.

Phyllis Schaer of Sherman, chairwoman of the Candlewood Lake Authority’s invasive species subcommittee, wakes up early on Saturdays to begin her rounds at Candlewood Lake. She typically offers to inspect the boats of about 11 newcomers a day, she said. She also takes the time to teach members of the lake community how to take care of their boats to prevent spreading invasive species.

Schaer said that many boaters do not take the problem seriously because they feel no impact from a single pest they fail to clean from their boat. But over the long term, if the invasive species settles in their local lake, it is expensive for the community to contain it.

“It’s insidious because people think that if these things don’t bite you, they’re not dangerous. But they bite you in your economic pocketbook,” Schaer said.

For more information about invasive species in Connecticut and how to prevent spreading them, visit

Zebra Mussels continue to invade Lake Texoma

Reporter: Jennifer Sanders
Email Address:

Lake Texoma — Lake Texoma has been infested with zebra mussels for more than 2 years and now its not only affecting residents in Texoma, but across the North Texas region.

Lake Texoma — Lake Texoma has been infested with zebra mussels for more than 2 years and now its not only affecting residents in Texoma, but across the North Texas region.

You have to be close to see them, but these invasive creatures called zebra mussels are wreaking havoc on the North Texas water supply.

Biologist say while the species aren’t harmful to humans and doesn’t contaminate the water — they clog pipes and damage water supply equipment.

“This is a typical mussel oyster type animal, it filters water and takes little particulate matter out of the water,”said biologist Bruce Hysmith.

They invaded Lake Texoma more than two years ago.

Less than a week ago, Hysmith found 17 live zebra mussels, which are causing major problems for more than 60 cities in the North Texas region.

And now — reps with the North Texas Municipal Water District have implemented a water emergency plan.

The district has lost raw water supply from Lake Texoma — which accounts for more than a quarter of their water supply.

So now residents in dozens of cities around North Texas — have strict water restrictions until biologists contain the zebra mussels in the water.

“We’re doing what we had hoped to do and that is to stop the southward migration of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma,”said Hysmith.

Their doing that by not pumping water from the lake.

And getting rid of the zebra mussels isn’t an easy fix –but the biggest help to stop the spread of the species can come from boaters.

“Clean, drain and dry the boat if you’re going to Texoma from another water body, but if your going home to another water body but if you’re just going home and back to Lake Texoma not a problem,”said Hysmith.

Zebra Mussels Target Of New DNR Action

Hot Water Decontamination Unit Utilized To Wipe Out Invasive Species

MADISON, Wis. — While many Wisconsinites have spent recent weekends enjoying area lakes, the state Department of Natural Resources was also busy on the water.
DNR officials were utilizing a new piece of equipment being implemented to stop the spread of zebra mussels. Just a simple, but thorough wash could be the key to keeping the invasive zebra mussel from spreading further into Wisconsin waters, they said.

“The larger challenge here is to keep them out of other lakes,” said DNR deputy warden Greg Stacey.

And what makes the zebra mussel so nasty?

“What they do is they eat the plankton, the same food that a new batch of walleye would want to eat. They clean the lake up so the predator fish can see the small fish and actually destroy the new hatch,” said Stacey.

Local angler Domenick Donato has caught fish all over the country. He said the zebra mussels impact on the underwater ecosystem is significant.

“Just to see the change in how we fished in the past when I was a kid, to now it’s completely different,” said Donato. “I mean, definitely, they’re going deep, and they’re staying deep.”

“My common sense would think if you don’t have a really deep lake that can handle where the fish can migrate to get protection, then it can make a huge impact,” continued Donato about the spread of zebra mussels.

In Wisconsin, zebra mussels aren’t currently a major source of trouble. The DNR said less than 2 percent of Wisconsin’s lakes are now affected.

The problem is those zebra mussels can grow exponentially.

And that’s why the DNR is breaking in a new piece of equipment, a hot water decontamination unit.

“It’s a hot water, we don’t use any chemicals,” said Stacey. “And I think that’s going to be an important factor for many, many people throughout the state.”

DNR officials said the training will eventually trickle into local communities.

“And the really good thing is we can provide a service to the counties, to the municipalities, and to the lake associations,” said Stacey. “As they purchase these machines, we’ll help train those people.”

All to keep those zebra mussels at bay.

The hot water decontamination unit is the first mobile decontamination unit in Wisconsin.

According to the DNR, zebra mussels don’t just hurt the natural ecosystem of a lake. The species can also affect property values of lakeshore homes and interfere with the tourism industry.

To find out more on this, visit Channel 3000’s Search page.

Copyright 2011 by Channel 3000.

Zebra mussel madness in Alexandria area

Dr. Daniel Molloy described three major impacts caused by the spread of zebra mussels.

By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press

Dr. Daniel Molloy described three major impacts caused by the spread of zebra mussels.

One is recreational. Beach-goers could cut their feet on the sharp mussel shells.

Live mussels also wash onto shore, leaving behind an offensive odor.

The industrial impact of zebra mussels is also significant.

The creatures attach to and clog pipes, causing a myriad of problems and financial burden.

According to Dick Osgood, certified lake manager, irrigation systems for lawn watering are also becoming inundated with mussels.

The third impact of the mussels is ecological.

“[Zebra mussels] feed voraciously by filtering on algae and the next domino to get hit is the microscopic animals that are in that water,” he said. “The dominoes start to fall.”

He explained that insects and fish normally would eat the microorganisms.

“The food chain gets an impact and also the water starts to become clearer because they’re eating those microscopic plants that are making it kind of pea-soupy. Sunlight now can go further down, striking the bottom so that aquatic weeds can start to grow where they weren’t growing,” he said.

The zebra mussels also accumulate polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) “which are nasty poisons – you already have that in these lakes,” Osgood said. He also noted, “With zebra mussels… they filter out the algae but they don’t filter out the toxin strains of algae.”

Some of these toxins have been linked to human health impacts, especially in water supply reservoirs.

“They are beginning to find Alzheimer clusters in communities that get their drinking water from reservoirs that have blue-green algae blooms that have formed toxins,” Osgood said.

Zebra mussels talk draws full house

By Casey Merkwan

Concerned community members and experts packed a room at the Chanhassen Community Center last week to learn more about the dreaded zebra mussels.

More than 50 people attended a forum that featured speakers Steve McComas, an aquatic biologist and ecologist, Luke Skinner from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Eric Evenson, district administrator of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to talk about the problem of zebra mussels and what’s next for Minnesota lakes.

Skinner said there is no safe way to eradicate zebra mussels, so the focus is on preventing any further spreading.

“There’s a lot of concern about a lot of invasive species but right now the zebra mussel is the poster child for spreading in the state,” Skinner said.

Skinner said it is possible to kill off zebra mussels but there’s risk of killing other species. He also said the larger the lake the harder they are to control.

“In a lake like this [Minnetonka] with this many bays and islands and stuff, the reality of trying to manage it here is it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Since the discovery of zebra mussels in July of last year, experts say the key is to prevent them from spreading.

It’s possible the non-native invasive species have been in Lake Minnetonka for more than two years.

“They were also found on the other side of the dam of Lake Minnetonka so theoretically Minnehaha Creek is considered to be infested as well,” McComas said.

Zebra mussels originated from the Black and Caspian seas in Europe. It is suspected that the species traveled to the United States via cargo ships in the late 1980s.

After the discovery of the zebra mussels in July, agencies performed an enhanced assessment to determine the distribution of the infestation and to find adult zebra mussels to lead them to a breeding point.

“They were fairly hard to find,” McComas said. “In a big lake it really is looking for a needle in a haystack trying to find a breeding population.”

Divers didn’t find a breeding spot. McComas said there was 100 hours of dive time, 30-40 volunteers and 20-30 spots where zebra mussels were found in Lake Minnetonka, mostly on the east side of the lake.

Lake Minnetonka and neighboring lakes were also assessed for how hospitable the lakes were for zebra mussel population growth.

McComas said the calcium levels in all 26 bays of Lake Minnetonka were high enough that they could support optimal growth of zebra mussels.

Other factors that are optimal for zebra mussel growth are PH levels, the right concentration of chlorophyll and bottom conditions.

Zebra mussels attach easily to hard surfaces with substrate, for example rocks. If the bottom of the lake is sand and silt, the mussels can attach to each other as well.

Lake Minnetonka has the conditions that would support moderate growth of zebra mussels and 43 percent of lake bottom could be colonized, McComas said.

Christmas Lake has the potential to have 60 percent of the lake bottom colonized, according to McComas.

Zebra mussels kill native mussels and also compete with young fish for food. They can also block underwater pipes.

McComas said zebra mussels start spawning when the water temperature reaches 54 degrees.

Currently, water temperatures are in the high 30s. By late May the water temperatures will raise to optimal spawning time.

“This isn’t something that the state can do on their own, this isn’t something the watershed district can do on their own, this isn’t something that counties can do on their own. This is going to have a coordinated effort, a cooperative effort to really get anything to happen here and it is going to involve all the agencies, it’s also going to have to involve lake associations and individuals out there,” Evenson said.

As a result Evenson, Skinner and McComas emphasized the need to prevent further infestation of the zebra mussels.

Evenson suggested implementing a red lake, blue lake program to help stop spreading.

The program would use a red sticker to identify when a boat has been in waters infested with zebra mussels. A boat could not enter a lake without zebra mussels until inspected.

The legislature has also gotten involved: a new drain plug law took effect on July 1, 2010. The law states that a person leaving waters of the state must drain boat equipment by removing the drain plugs, bailers, valves or other devices that hold water.

On March 16, Gov. Mark Dayton announced his support for legislation that hopes to minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The bill would require more thorough inspections, double penalties for violations, allow local law enforcement to retain civil penalty amounts for citations issued by their agency, require training for lake providers and require watercraft and operators to have a decal that lists invasive species rules, like a sticker.

The experts encouraged community members to vocalize their concerns with their elected representatives and to also educate their neighbors to slow the infestation of zebra mussels.

Ramp gates a solution for zebra mussels?

Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune

Homeowners on Christmas Lake are pushing for a better way to protect their clean waters.

In another grass-roots attempt to stop the spread of zebra mussels from Lake Minnetonka, homeowners on nearby Christmas Lake are angling to have a code-activated gate installed on the lake’s solitary boat ramp.

“There are huge numbers of lake homeowners who don’t feel the Department of Natural Resources is doing enough,” said Joe Shneider, president of the 140-member Christmas Lake Homeowners Association.

“We can’t just do what we have done in the past, which is monitor and communicate and educate, because it’s just not enough.”

Christmas Lake is one of the cleanest, clearest lakes in the metro area because it is deep, spring-fed and gets no farm runoff.

The lake’s boat ramp on Hwy. 7 in Shorewood is a stone’s throw from Lake Minnetonka, where zebra mussels were discovered last summer. Many boaters take a ride or fish on Lake Minnetonka and then, without having to be inspected for unwanted aquatic plants and animals, go on to Christmas Lake, Shneider said.

Christmas Lake homeowners would like the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to test the ramp gate idea.

“We would really like to see a strong statewide program put in place to control the spread of invasive species, but if the state doesn’t do that we are willing to step up and do something,” said watershed district administrator Eric Evenson.

The idea is to require boaters to go to one of several locations for an invasive species inspection, where they could get a punch code, similar to an automatic car wash, to raise the gate to the boat ramp, Evenson said.

“If we don’t do something, we are going to lose what people want to get to the lake for in the first place,” Evenson said.

Lake access part of culture

The request comes just weeks after homeowners around Fish Lake in Maple Grove sought to close its only access ramp when it wasn’t staffed for inspections.

The DNR, which would have to approve the gate experiment, has so far refused to limit lake access in the name of controlling invasive species.

“We are concerned about preventing the spread of invasive species but we need to find ways to do it that still allow people to recreate on the lakes,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the division of ecological and water resources.

“Access to lakes is kind of part of the fabric of Minnesota’s culture so I don’t think the DNR can be the sole entity that decides we are going to start trading off access to lakes,” Hirsch said.

The agency is discussing the matter with the state attorney general’s office. Hirsch declined to describe the discussions.

The DNR’s approach to aquatic invasive species has been to station inspectors at busy lakes during peak hours and educate the public about how invasive plants and animals are spread. The agency is recommending that legislators provide more funding for expanded lake inspections and enforcement.

Hirsch acknowledged that even if legislation providing more inspectors passes, lakes would not have complete inspection coverage.

Gate approach worth a shot?

At Fish Lake Regional Park, operated by Three Rivers Park District, the homeowners’ request to gate the ramp when inspectors are not present was turned down because it was inconsistent with park and DNR policies. Three Rivers officials said they welcomed more volunteer inspectors.

A gated approach at the Christmas Lake boat ramp is worth trying, said Steve McComas, owner of Blue Water Science in St. Paul who specializes in lake and watershed management. The boat ramp owned by Shorewood is the only publicly owned piece of property on Christmas Lake.

“I wouldn’t say I would like to see this on every single lake, but it certainly is a noble experiment. Why not try it and see what kind of problems we incur and see if it works?” McComas said.

Said Shneider: “We seem like a wonderful pilot because we do only have one boat ramp and the water quality is so good. If you are going to protect things, gosh, protect the best.”

Christmas Lake homeowners use the ramp to put their own boats in the water, Shneider said.

Shorewood, which operates the ramp under an agreement with the DNR, supported the watershed district’s application for a grant to pay on-site inspectors for the ramp, but the City Council has not addressed the gate idea, said city administrator Brian Heck.

“One of my questions is: Do we know for certain that there aren’t zebra mussels there already,” Heck said.

The watershed district is taking samples in the lake to find out.

Can Zequanox halt zebra mussel proliferation in Alexandria area lakes and beyond – and will it be safe?

Zebra mussels pillage lakes and rivers, devouring small organisms and algae through their efficient filtering systems. They are able to affix themselves almost like glue to objects, clogging pipes and creating swimming hazards. The Douglas County Lakes Association invited Dr. Daniel Molloy, a retired scientist from the New York Museum Cambridge Research Institute, to visit Alexandria area lakes and discuss a possible solution to the zebra mussel proliferation – a biopesticide called Zequanox.

By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press

Zebra mussels pillage lakes and rivers, devouring small organisms and algae through their efficient filtering systems. They are able to affix themselves almost like glue to objects, clogging pipes and creating swimming hazards.

The Douglas County Lakes Association invited Dr. Daniel Molloy, a retired scientist from the New York Museum Cambridge Research Institute, to visit Alexandria area lakes and discuss a possible solution to the zebra mussel proliferation – a biopesticide called Zequanox.

Molloy and a colleague discovered the bacterial strain pseudomonas fluorescens was able to kill the mussels. Pseudomonas fluorescens is the active ingredient in Zequanox.

Molloy has studied zebra mussels for more than 20 years. He became involved in researching the mussels in 1991 when companies were using bleach to combat the mussels in clogged pipes.HIGH HOPES

“We have taken the stance that doing nothing is not acceptable,” said Bonnie Huettl, Douglas County Lakes Association president.

The bacteria used in Zequanox are common and can be found inside refrigerators or on rugs, according to Molloy.

“It is omnipresent everywhere,” he said. “It is already in the lakes and that is because it lives in soil, and its job is to protect plants roots.”

The scientists at the research institute discovered zebra mussels died after consuming the bacteria, according to Molloy.

“It was serendipity, luck, persistence,” he said of the discovery. “We fed it to zebra mussels and quagga mussels, their cousins that cause problems, and it kills them.”

Marrone Bio Innovations is the commercial developer of Zequanox. In collaboration with the Douglas County Citizens’ Committee on Zebra Mussels (DCCC) and the Douglas County Lakes Association, Marrone provided a research request to the Minnesota DNR June 1 to evaluate the use of Zequanox in local lakes. The application has been delayed due to the Minnesota government shutdown, according to Huettl.

Marrone Bio seeks to test Zequanox in Lakes Carlos, Darling and L’Homme Dieu.

“This whole thing is very pioneering,” Molloy said.


Small scale testing using Zequanox in power plants has been conducted with larger-scale trials starting this summer, according to Molloy.

“So this cutting edge is part of why we were getting involved in it,” Huettl said. “We should go forward with it while we have the chance.”

Testing would begin with jar assays in a laboratory-type setting using a cloud of Zequanox and then graduate to the implementation of larger aquaria. Eventually, they would isolate a pile of rocks in a lake, to see if Zequanox kills the mussels.

“I call it baby-steps of research,” Molloy said.

Molloy and Dick Osgood, a certified lake manager, discussed the application of Zequanox.

“One of the challenges to open water is how do you apply it if the zebra mussels are on these rocks,” Molloy said. “Research has to be done to find a very efficient, cost effective and efficacious delivery system to get a little cloud down there for… like six hours.”

A granular blanket of Zequanox could be employed, according to Molloy. A delivery system that would allow the Zequanox to stick to the articles covered with the mussels also might be a possible solution, Osgood suggested.

The DCCC anticipates approval of the proposal from the DNR and the committee hopes to raise money to pay for the research.

Huettl estimates an initial cost of $300,000. DCCC plans to initiate a fund-raising campaign and is looking for private investors to help finance the project.

The group hopes Zequanox will be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in pipes later this summer and testing to begin in open waters next year.

“Getting the testing done is a start,” Huettl said. “The point is to get it started here in Minnesota and we would be the leaders, being that we have a number of lakes that need to be protected and nothing has been done to date.”


After testing is conducted in the lake, Molloy and Huettl expect the Zequanox would be allowed to disperse into the rest of the lake. They also do not anticipate the lakes would be closed during this period.

Molloy said dead bacterial cells would be used to combat the mussels, but a higher density of cells would be required.

“It kills [the zebra mussels’] digestive gland,” he explained. “Whether the cell is live or dead has no bearing on it because it is intoxication. It is not infection.”

Osgood said Zequanox would be reviewed thoroughly by the EPA.

“In my opinion, this stuff is safe,” he said. He later clarified his belief that after the EPA granted its approval for Zequanox applications in the lakes, it would be safe for humans.

But live pseudomonas fluorescens may wreak havoc on some humans, such as those that are immunocompromised, according to recent studies. The question is, will dead bacteria also affect humans?

Some community members were skeptical about Zequanox, although most were positive, according to Huettl.

“Being active and putting [Zequanox] into the lake has raised the hackles more so than what they do on their lawn spraying weed killer and those kinds of things,” she said. “You see permits all over the lakeshore for killing 50 feet of weeds. They don’t think anything of it, but, oh, put Zequanox in to kill a zebra mussel and, oh, my God, we’re poisoning the water.”


The DCCC is looking into the possibility of bringing in a company to make Zequanox here.

If a manufacturing plant was built in the Alexandria area, it could produce Zequanox for other lakes.

“We are looking at this as an entrepreneurial adventure, for someone here in Minnesota,” Huettl said. “Doing nothing is old news.”

Osgood agreed.

“Doing nothing has impacts,” he said. “I don’t think this chain of lakes has seen the full impact yet of zebra mussels. It is very early in the infestation.”

Osgood is executive director of the Lake Minnetonka Association. Zebra mussels were first discovered in Lake Minnetonka last July in small quantities.

“This year they are on virtually every rock,” he said. “They are exploding.”


“This is it,” Huettl said. “The chemicals that are out there that would be used are much more harmful.”

“The risks are so much higher,” Molloy added. “You’ll never eliminate risks. Every pesticide has risks.”

And Osgood said, “This is the only game in town. There really is nothing else.”

See upcoming issues of the Echo Press for more information about zebra mussels and safety concerns.